There could be a few different reasons why you might be running out of hot water quicker than ever before. The natural place to look for the source is your water heater. Most people don’t think about their heater until it’s too late and they don’t have any hot water at all. However, hot water running out is usually the first sign of problems and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
First of all, you need to figure out how and when the problem started.
If the Change Was Gradual
You might have noticed a steady decline in how much hot water you have for long showers. Most people ignore the problem until they can’t take a quick shower without running out of hot water. The most common cause of a gradual and slow problem is water heater sediment. The water that runs through our pipes is not perfectly sterile and contains a small amount of dissolved minerals. For most intake pipes, this doesn’t represent a huge concern since the water is constantly circulated due to daily demand.
In water heaters, however, the water stays in a container for an entire day at a time. The minerals may form into sediment and create a hardened layer at the bottom of the tank. As this layer grows, it interferes with the heating element. The element no longer has direct access to the water, and heat needs to go through a less-conductive layer, reducing energy efficiency. Additionally, if there’s a lot of sediment, it effectively reduces the heater’s water capacity, which directly leads to less hot water to use from the start.
How to Solve Water Sediment
Thankfully, there’s a DIY solution to this problem. Flushing the water heater out regularly can remove excess sediment and slow down the water heater’s degradation. If you’re not comfortable tinkering with the water heater, you can contact us. We’ll provide a certified plumber to flush out the water heater and troubleshoot any other issues in no time.
In severe cases, the sediment may be too much for the water heater to handle and has started deteriorating the tank from the inside. Your only option would be to replace the heater entirely. If your municipal water is too hard, we recommend adding a water softener to the supply to relieve the problem and increase the new model’s lifetime.
If the Change Was Sudden
If you’re running out of hot water suddenly and without any warning signs, there are often issues with the water heater’s elements.
Running Out of Hot Water Completely
When the hot water runs out fast, the first cause for concern should always be the main heating element. Some modern heaters have two heating elements. The primary element heats up all the water that comes into the tank, while the secondary heating element sits near the outtake pipes and maintains the temperature. If the main heater gives out, the other heating element will only heat the tiny amount of water it can due to its comparatively smaller size and power.
If the main heating element breaks, you need to replace it. Just give us a call, and we’ll handle the rest.
Water Is Always Lukewarm
If the water turns from hot to lukewarm quickly, the main problem is usually the dip tube. This pipe runs through the entire length of the water heater and delivers cold water near the heating element. If the dip tube broke, then the cold water from the supply can mix freely with the hot water already in the tank. This leads to the water always staying lukewarm rather than a gradual shift from hot water to cold water.
If the dip tube broke, there could be some plastic chunks in the showerhead. If you disassemble the showerhead and notice plastic debris, you can be almost sure that your problem is a faulty dip tube. You can try to replace the dip tube in the heater on your own, or you can call for MTDrain’s professional assistance.
No Hot Water Due to Larger Demand
You might have noticed that you’re running out of hot water because more people need to shower in your home. There’s often a straightforward reason behind it: the water heater is too small for a growing family.
Conventional water heaters can only hold as much hot water as their tank capacity allows. When that water gets used up, it will take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to get a satisfying amount of hot water back. If your lack of hot water is simply due to a small heater size, the sure-fire way to solve it is to get a new heater. Larger heater models will hold more water for your family to use.
Alternatively, tankless (or on-demand) water heaters use super-heated coils and a series of tubes to heat the water directly from the supply quickly. A tankless heater can be a lucrative option if your home is relatively modern and has the gas supply and electricity installations to support its higher requirements. For help installing a tankless water heater contact MT Drains & Plumbing.
No Hot Water at All
If you don’t have any hot water, you need to check if the heater is working correctly. The internal thermostat is responsible for detecting and maintaining an adequate water temperature. In some cases, it only needs to be reset to start working again. Some heaters come with dedicated reset buttons, while others have more complicated instructions detailed in the manual.
If the thermostat doesn’t work after being reset, there’s very little you can do. Try to set the thermostat to a higher temp than usual. It can provide short-term relief and give you more time to address the problem. The best way to fix a thermostat is to call a plumber to inspect it or replace it entirely.
Don’t Wait Until You Have No Hot Water
Running out of hot water is often the first sign of trouble with an ailing water heater. If you’ve only started noticing a problem, don’t hesitate to call us for a quick inspection. The issue usually can be fixed with proper replacement parts, which won’t be too expensive.
In some cases, though, your only option is to replace the old water heater with a new, more efficient, or larger model. Contact MTDrain if you have any questions, and we’ll do our best to give you the proper advice for your next purchase.